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(Reuters) - Residents in the two largest cities on New Zealand's south island began returning to their homes on Sunday, despite state of emergencies still in place, after a severe storm caused flooding and forced hundreds of homes to be evacuated.

MetService meteorologist Angus Hines said the weather system which lashed New Zealand over the past four days had passed, but other storms "were lining up to bring more rain".

The largest city Christchurch was mopping up after the Heathcote River burst its banks and flooded southern parts of the city on Saturday, causing evacuations in lower-lying areas of the city, said authorities.

The island’s second largest city, Dunedin, was also in recovery mode, said Mayor Dave Cull.

"There’s still a lot of water lying around, including on roads, there's still lots of slips, most of them have been partly cleared but there's a lot of debris around and, to complicate things, it’s freezing now," he said.

Local media reported many people who were evacuated across eastern parts of the south island were returning home on Sunday, however some may have to stay away for days to come due to flooding.

The meteorological service said some areas had received more than triple the monthly average rainfall in two days. The heaviest recorded fall was 266 millimetres (10.5 inches) north of Dunedin over a 48-hour period.

(Reporting by Joseph Hinchliffe; Editing by Michael Perry)

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